Connecticut needs paid family leave to boost its economy

In a Nov. 25th “Redprint,” Red Jahncke argues that Republicans should fight any proposal for paid medical and family leave because the state and its employers cannot afford it. However, we believe that paid leave is a critical part of the solution to Connecticut’s economic woes. 

The paid medical and family leave bill proposed in Connecticut is self-funded and does not require an annual appropriation. Nor does it require employer funding. The proposed model requires employees to contribute a small premium to a paid leave pool. This model is working well in other states and was shown to be sustainable in Connecticut by an actuarial analysis commissioned by the legislature in 2015. Similar paid family leave programs in New Jersey and California remained intact during the recession and have experienced surpluses in recent years. 

Everyone agrees that Connecticut’s workforce is aging rapidly and young people, especially those with college degrees, are leaving our state. Soon Connecticut will not have enough trained workers. How can paid family leave help? 

• Paid leave for an illness, to care for an infirm family member, or for the birth of a child increases employee retention and avoids costly turnover. Women who get paid leave after giving birth are 93 percent more likely to return to work than those who don’t. When Aetna increased its paid leave policy, the number of female employees who quit after having a child dropped significantly. 

• Paid leave benefits men and women across the workforce — including hourly and low-wage workers who may not have the financial cushion or personal supports to weather a health crisis or family event. 

• Paid leave helps attract talent. In a Deloitte survey, 77 percent of respondents said that a company’s paid family leave benefit could influence their choice of employer. And paid leave improves morale. More than 83 percent of companies that offer paid leave say it has a positive impact on morale. 

• In contrast to conventional wisdom, more than 70 percent of companies that offer paid leave say it boosts productivity. In California, women who took paid leave and returned to their jobs worked 15 to 20 percent more hours during the second year of their child’s life than those who did not take leave, according to research by Working Woman Mother Magazine. 

Connecticut is now surrounded by states that have paid family leave (New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey). To remain competitive and stop the Connecticut “brain drain,” we need to pass paid leave in 2019. 

Margaret M. O'Shea, Ph.D., of Old Lyme, is a retired professor at University of Saint Joseph. Carol J. Williams, Ph.D., of Willimantic, is a retired associate dean of continuing education at Eastern Connecticut State University. They co-chair the Women and Girls Fund Task Force on Public Policy of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.

 

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